Skip to content

Grand Rapids-based Acton Institute commentators attack Greta Thunberg, calling her ideas pathological

October 6, 2019

There have been numerous detractors of the young Swedish activist Greta Thunberg over the past few weeks, especially after her speech to heads of state at the United Nations.

Many of the responses to Thunberg have been reactionary, especially when Greta and the growing global climate justice movement places much of the blame for the current climate crisis on the economic system of capitalism.

Therefore, it is no surprise that the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty would post recent articles critical of the young Swedish activist. In fact, in addition to their staunch defense of capitalism, the Acton Institute has been part of the climate denial sector on numerous levels. 

  • According to ExxonSecrects.org, the Acton Institute between 1998 and 2007, received $315,000 from Exxon Mobil. Exxon Mobil funded dozens of groups, Like Acton, for the purpose of climate denial. 
  • During the same time period( mid-2000s), the Acton Institute showed a climate denial film at the Wealthy Street theater, which was well attended by their members.
  • In July of 2016, nineteen U.S. Senators delivered a series of speeches denouncing climate change denial from 32 organizations with links to fossil-fuel interests, including the Acton Institute. 

The Acton Institute posted two articles within the past week that were critical of Greta Thunberg and the global movement that she is part of.

One article is from Jordan Ballor, a research fellow at the Acton Institute and someone who got his PH.D. at the Calvin Theological Seminary. Ballor soft pedals his critique of Thunberg early on in the article and attempts to frame the climate issue as religious and moral. 

However, towards the end of Ballor’s article he openly defends the nuclear power and renewable and sustainable. The Acton research fellow then states:

Energy policy and practice must also take into account the challenges of the responsible stewardship of fossil fuels and the tradeoffs involved with moves from coal to natural gas, for instance.

There is no responsible use of fossil fuels and the global climate scientist community has made it clear that fossil fuels must be eliminated in the not to distant future, if we are to have a future.

Ballor takes the gloved off at the end of the article and says:

As laudable as the intentions of activists like Thunberg might be, pathos unmoored from reason becomes pathological.

Here, the Acton Institute research fellow clearly seeks to discredit Thunberg and activists like her, concluding that what these activists are calling for is “pathological.”

The second article recently posted on the Acton Institute’s site, is from the director of a Conservative Christian think tank in Sweden, the Clapham Institute. Per Ewert spends the first part of his article making the claim that he may have inspired Greta to become an activist. Once Ewart stops talking about himself, he then sets his sights on bashing Greta and the global climate justice movement. Ewart states: 

In her speeches Greta has repeatedly, and apparently with growing frustration, declared that politicians do nothing, and that the causes behind the climate threats are found in the capitalist system. But both claims are untrue. Instead, the climate situation calls for skilled and bold entrepreneurs who can invent, and market, climate-benefitting tools for the twenty-first century. The solution lies in making such decisions that would make a real change, instead of sending general accusations against those who are making a positive impact.

Again, we see an Acton Institute contributor defending the system of capitalism. Well, they don’t actually defend capitalism, because Ewart offers no real evidence that Capitalism is the root cause of climate change, he simply says that Greta’s claim is untrue. Ewart then goes on to say that what is needed are bold entrepreneurs who can invent and market climate-benefiting tools. This is such bullshit! Entrepreneurs operating within the capitalist system are the very cause of the climate crisis, along with the idea that climate-benefiting tools can be invested and marketed. THIS is the problem. We think that technology or anything that can be commodified will save us.

Ewart continues to attack Greta by saying that her comments are the United Nations were “downright dangerous.” Greta said, everything needs to change. And it has to start today.” Ewart considers this dangerous language and then calls it a revolutionary phrase that in the past has turned out bad for people.

The director of the Conservative Christian think tank then concludes with this observation:

Adults need to manage the balance of making wise and reflective decisions, while simultaneously avoiding the perils of panic and adopting a child’s engaged but still limited worldview. Therefore, instead of attacking the capitalist system, both Greta and people of goodwill around the world should be directing our focus against, for instance, China and other large coal users, to make them abandon their coal industry. That would create the real results that the young movement around Greta needs.

Here Ewart demonstrates that he is agist, dismissing youth and claiming that adults are wise. Adults, are in fact, the ones who are responsible for the climate crisis, especially those who are the heads of global corporations and governments. China and India are two of the largest consumers of coal, but that also is related to the fact that they have much larger populations than the US or European countries. In fact, when it comes to per capita fossil fuel consumption, the US is way above all other countries.

Ewart could have made the links between the US military and climate change, especially considering the fact that the Pentagon is the single largest institutional consumer of fossil fuels in the world

That the Acton commentator simply blames other countries, further demonstrates his bias to not critique the world’s former colonial powers and the most imperialist country on the planet, the United States of American. However, this is consistent with Acton’s ideological framework, which is to defend not only US imperialism, but the sectors of wealth that have benefited greatly from the system of capitalism.

Betsy DeVos ended her private/charter school tour and the first place she goes to continue to push the Education Freedom Scholarships is the American Enterprise Institute

October 3, 2019

On Tuesday, US Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, fresh off her “Back to School” tour, where she was promoting the Education Freedom Scholarships program, spoke at a forum hosted by the most influential think tank in the US, the American Enterprise Institute (AEI).

The American Enterprise Institute fully supports the administration’s education policies, policies which have been embraced by the last several administrations, but now accelerated under Betsy DeVos. These education policies are fundamentally promoting a neo-liberal education model, where public schools have seen significant reduction in funding, which leads to public schools adopting a charter-school like approach and partnering with the business community. The neo-liberal education model also means re-directing public funds to private and charter school options, often presented as “school choice.”

The AEI event began with Betsy DeVos making some opening comments about the Education Freedom Scholarships. DeVos made the following statement in regards to those sectors which are not endorsing the Education Freedom Scholarship proposal:

“Big union bullying is unfair to the many students and parents who simply want better futures for their sons and daughters. I’ve been blessed to get to know many, many families who exercise education freedom…They couldn’t care less about how a school is legally structured or how the funds flow. They care about their kids.”

DeVos went on to give an example of how unions are against education freedom, by citing the teacher strike in West Virginia. DeVos said the teacher strike was, “anti-teacher and anti-student.” The fact is, that the teacher strikes in West Virginia were not only led by teachers, but they won on several fronts, which ultimately means that the students won. In fact, students and their parents were involved in the strike, according to Eric Blanc’s recent book, Red State Revolt: The Teachers’ Strikes and Working Class Politics.

After her opening remarks, DeVos was joined on stage by White House Counsel, Kellyanne Conway and a moderator from the American Policy Institute. Conway was rather unimpressive, repeating some of the same talking points that DeVos presented and using the opportunity to criticize Democrats who don’t endorse the Education Freedom Scholarship proposal, which you can read about at this link

Both Conway and DeVos were later joined on stage by Tennessee Representative John DeBerry (D), Pennsylvania Speaker of the House Mike Turzai (R), and Arizona Treasurer Kimberly Yee (R). Not surprising, each of these three elected officials endorse the Education Freedom Scholarships. Rep. DeBerry has even come under fire from fellow Democrats for supporting school vouchers in Tennessee and Rep. Turzai recently introduced legislation that would allow students in the Harrisburg area (PA’s state capitol) to access public funds to attend private schools.

One of the major things missing from the discussion was any historical context for why public schools were doing so poorly or why they were underfunded. This context is significant, since DeVos and others who spoke at the AEI event kept saying that the Education Freedom Scholarships would benefit “African American and Hispanic students.” Again historical context is critical, since there was no acknowledgement of the fact that after force busing and the de-segregation of schools began in the 1970s, white American and the suburbanization of the country led to white families pulling their kids out of urban public schools and putting them in either more elite, racially segregated public schools or placing their children in private schools.

This shift in education began the steady decline of funding for urban public school systems and created an opening for the charter school/voucher/privatizing education movement that was led by people like Dick & Betsy DeVos and the organizations they helped to create in the 1980s, many of which are rather powerful today.

Of course, I would not expect this kind of information to be shared at a forum hosted by the American Enterprise Institute. If you want to sit through the 2 hour AEI forum with Betsy DeVos, Kellyanne Conway and pro-Education Freedom Scholarship politicians, here you go. 

What Independent News Media is saying about Impeaching Trump

October 1, 2019

Now that the Democratic Party leadership has finally decided to beginning impeachment proceedings, it might be useful to see what independent news sources and journalists are saying.

We are choosing to look exclusively a independent media sources, especially since the mainstream, corporate media is not likely to challenge any official narratives, even during impeachment proceedings.

From a more liberal end of the spectrum, John Nichols, writing for The Nation, takes a more Democrat vs Republican view of the impeachment proceedings, stating: If the 2020 choice is between Democrats who say they need to win in order to finally put an end to Trump’s abuses and to finish the miserable tenures of those senators who aid and abet his abuses, impeachment will not be a “third-rail” issue for the party. Democrats need to have the confidence of Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez when she says that “the ground has shifted,” and that Democrats have the “ability to organize the public, to educate the public, to talk to the public” about the necessity of impeachment.

Nichols frames the issue of impeachment primarily within he electoral arena. Ryan Grim, the political reporter for The Intercept, also leans towards the electoral framework, but with a more critical assessment. Grim is suggesting that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi made the decision to begin impeachment proceedings, in part, because the Democratic Party-base was becoming so frustrated with the party’s failure to move forward on impeachment, which was leading to grassroots challenges to Democratic Party incumbents. 

That grassroots anger was translating into primary challenges, he noted, and needlessly furious constituents. Rep. Cheri Bustos, the chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, and a champion of doing nothing when it came to Trump, had recently counted as many as 111 primaries, far more than a typical cycle. The members without official primary challenges were by no means safe, either, as they might soon draw a challenge unless the trajectory of the politics changed. Freshman representative Lori Trahan, from Massachusetts, for instance, came out for impeachment after Dan Koh, whom she beat in a primary by 147 votes in 2018, called on her to do so, with the clear threat that he may run again. The seats of upward of 200 Democrats were being put at risk to protect a handful of loud front-liners, Raskin argued, and it wasn’t obvious that the strategy was actually protecting them from anything. Grassroots activists were demobilizing, Democrats across the board were facing primary challenges, and somehow, someway, Democrats seemed to be losing, again, to Trump. Something had to give.

Mehdi Hasan, also a contributor to The Intercept, also takes a critical look at the impeachment, raising important questions about the possibility that it will fail. Hasan states: 

So how then might this end up as a defeat, and not a victory? Think about it. For House Democrats to wait this long and then impeach a reckless, lawless, racist, tax-dodging president only over his interactions with the president of Ukraine would be to effectively give Trump a clean bill of health on everything else. Going into an election year, Democrats would be unilaterally disarming — unable to offer further substantive criticisms of Trump’s crimes and abuses of power across the board. “Why didn’t you impeach him for it?” Republicans will ask.

Anthony DiMaggio, writing for the online indy news source, CounterPunch, also looks at how the impeachment proceedings could stifle more progressive discourse and policies before the 2020 election. DiMaggio states: 

There are, of course, dangers that impeachment brings. One is that the 2020 election becomes merely a mandate on Trump, rather than about establishing a progressive vision for policy change. I have no doubt that Biden and Pelosi would love to make the 2020 election into nothing more than a mandate on Trump, which would allow them to divert public attention from the growing support within the Democratic Party for the progressive, New Deal-style reforms promoted by Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. These policies are strongly opposed by neoliberal establishment types like Pelosi and Biden, so there is a real risk in allowing the impeachment agenda to hijack political discourse in the run-up to 2020.

Lastly, there are two writers who question the whole impeachment proceeding, since they both believe it will undermine the possibility of more systemic and revolutionary changes necessary, even if Trump is impeached. Chris Hedges, writing for Truthdig, states: 

Impeachment is about cosmetics. It is about replacing the public face of empire with a political mandarin such as Joe Biden, himself steeped in corruption and obsequious service to the rich and corporate power, who will carry out the same suicidal policies with appropriate regal decorum. The ruling elites have had enough of Trump’s vulgarity, stupidity and staggering ineptitude. They turned on him not over an egregious impeachable offense—there have been numerous impeachable offenses including the use of the presidency for personal enrichment, inciting violence and racism, passing on classified intelligence to foreign officials, obstruction of justice and a pathological inability to tell the truth—but because he made the fatal mistake of trying to take down a fellow member of the ruling elite.

Paul Street, also writing in CounterPunch, makes the point that like Nixon, Trump could get impeached without ever being held accountable for war crimes or violence done to people right here in the US. Nixon, was not facing impeachment for his war crimes in Cambodia, Vietnam or Chile and he was not facing war crimes for giving the FBI the green light to attack members of the Black Panther Party for Self Defense, the American Indian Movement or the Brown Berets, it was because he was spying on the Democrats. Trump will not be impeached for war crimes or eco-cide or all the harm ICE has done to the immigrant community, he will be impeached because election tampering. What we need to do, Street suggests, is learn from what other people have done across the globe: 

The best way to remove Trump is not merely through elite procedures designed by wealthy 18th Century slaveholders, merchant capitalists, and publicists for whom democracy was the ultimate nightmare. It is through a sustained mass rebellion by and for those the U.S. Founders and the American ruling class today fears most: We the People, the working-class majority. We should mobilize to bring this regime down in the same way the people of Puerto Rico recently forced out their corrupt and racist-sexist governor Ricky Rosello, the same way the people of Hong Kong won the repeal of an authoritarian extradition law, and the same way the masses of Algeria overthrew an authoritarian regime last year.

Personally, I would advocate for what Street is saying.

The US War/Occupation of Afghanistan is now in its 18th year, and it’s a bipartisan occupation

September 30, 2019

This week it will be 18 years since the US bombed, invaded and occupied Afghanistan. Considered the longest US military action, the US war in Afghanistan is complex, but it should be considered a war crime.

After the September 11, 2001, for many people it became difficult to actively speak out against US foreign policy. There were large gatherings in the Grand Rapids area to morn the dead from 9/11, but there was limited organized public conversation about why the US was attacked on 9/11 and even less so in the local news media.

None of the traditional anti-war groups in Grand Rapids, were willing to criticize the US bombing of Afghanistan until months after the US war/occupation had begun.

However, the group People’s Alliance for Justice & Change, didn’t hesitate to speak out and began forming a plan as to what could be done in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 and the US intent to wage war on Afghanistan. For a list of actions that were organized in Grand Rapids during late 2001 and part of 2002, go to this post on the Grand Rapids People’s History Project

After September 11, 2001, the US quickly moved to take action to blame someone for the terrorist attack. In October of 2001, the US began bombing Afghanistan, even though Afghanistan had nothing to do with 9/11. It is true that members of Al Qaeda were operating from Afghanistan, but the Afghan government did not want to hand over members of Al Qaeda to the US, instead they wanted them to be handed over to a third party, especially since the US had been deeply involved in attempting to influence the Afghani government since the early 1970s.

What follows are a few main points about what the US war/occupation of Afghanistan has been about and what the consequences have been:

The US is not in Afghanistan to bring Democracy – Since 1979, the US has supported anti-democratic forces such as the Mujahadeen, the Northern Alliance, the Taliban and a variety of individual warlords. Since the end of the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, the US has also supported subsequent Afghan governments, despite the fact that most of them have been rife with corruption.

The US is not in Afghanistan to protect the rights of Women – The groups of armed men that the US has supported for decades, like the Mujahadeen, are some of the most misogynist groups in that country. Even under the current government of Karzai, a law was passed that essentially legalized the rape of women.  Afghan Women’s groups like RAWA and the Afghan Women’s Mission have made it very clear that if those of us in the US want to support women in Afghanistan then we should work for an end to the US military occupation of their country.

The US is not in Afghanistan to Prevent Terrorism – Many credible members of the US intelligence community have stated in recent years that there is no link between the Taliban and Al Qaida. The Taliban did not attack the US on September 11, 2001. The Taliban are a nationalist group that wants the US out of their country. In fact, we would say that the US occupation of Afghanistan only gives rise to potential acts of terror and feeds a growing anti-American sentiment.

What the US is doing in Afghanistan has more to do with long-term strategic interests. We believe that the US recognizes that Afghanistan is a bridge between the Middle East and Central Asia, that it borders Iran, Pakistan, China and other important countries. We believe that the US sees Afghanistan as playing an important role in the control of future resources in that region, both because it will likely be a major trans-shipment point to move oil and gas in the region, but also because it can act as a US outpost to prevent China, India and Russia from gaining access to the region’s resources.

One major consequence of the US war/occupation of Afghanistan has resulted in a massive increase in opium/heroin production. Drug war scholar and historian Alfred McCoy has written a great deal about the connection between the US occupation of Afghanistan and the increase in opium/heroin production. In addition, the graph below provides visual evidence of the the relationship between increased drug production and the US occupation of Afghanistan.

The US war/occupation of Afghanistan has been a bi-partisan effort. The occupation began under the George W. Bush administration, but the Obama administration escalated the number of US troops. In fact, the Democratic Party has consistently made the argument that Afghanistan is where the US War on Terror should be fought since 9/11.

The human cost of the US war/occupation of Afghanistan has been estimated at 31,000 civilian Afghani deaths, according to a recent piece by long-time Middle East journalist, Robert Fisk. In addition, there is a well documented report that came out within the last two weeks from Brown University, entitled, The Human and Financial Costs of the Explosive Remnants of War in Afghanistan

Lastly, there is the economic cost to the US War on Terror since 2001. The National Priorities Project puts the total economic cost at right around $5 Trillion dollars, which you can follow at this link.  The National Priorities Project also allows you to breakdown how much money leaves each community across the country to pay for US wars. In 2018, $32.66 million left Grand Rapids to pay for US wars. The same site also provides trade-off, meaning what that $32.66 million could have paid for if it stayed in Grand Rapids. One example would be, if the money would have stayed in Grand Rapids it could have provided 71,704 Households with Solar Electricity for 1 Year.

So, it might be important to ask yourself why does the US Government continue the current war/occupation of Afghanistan? Why are most politicians not addressing it, and why is there no anti-war movement resisting this brutal, criminal war?

Editor’s note: One good source for news and analysis on Afghanistan is the Afghanistan Analysts Network.

Foundation Watch: How the Jandernoa Foundation functions within the rest of the GR Power Structure strategy

September 29, 2019

Michael Jandernoa is one of the lesser-known members of the Grand Rapids Power Structure. Jandernoa is the former president of Perrigo. In recent years, Jandernoa has been involved with 42 North Partners, which he created with his wife Sue. In addition, Jandernoa serves as General Partner at Bridge Street Capital Fund I, L.P, where he sits on the Executive Committee with John Kennedy.  He is the Co- Founder of Grand Angels, LLC., which is another investment capital entity in Grand Rapids.

In addition, Jandernoa has used his wealth to influence state politics. According to the Michigan Campaign Finance Network, Jandernoa gave $437,500 in the 2015 – 2016 election cycle (the 9th most in the state) to the Republican Party and he contributed $795,000 in the 2017 – 2018 election cycle, most notably to candidates from the Greater Grand Rapids area, like State Senator Peter MacGregor.

Jandernoa also sits on the boards of numerous groups that are part of the Grand Rapids Power Structure, like the West Michigan Policy Forum, Talent 2025, Business Leaders for Michigan and The Education Trust, which is an organization that promotes Charter Schools. 

Now that we can see the ways in which Jandernoa works to influence economic policy and the political process in Michigan, let’s look at how his foundation compliments these efforts.

The following data is for 2015 – 2017, based on the 990 documents we obtained from Guidestar, for the Michael and Susan Jandernoa Foundation. This foundation has just over $16 million in assets, according to Guidestar.

Like all members of the Grand Rapids Power Structure, the Jandernoa Foundation does two main things. First, this foundation funds the kinds of things that align with Jandernoa’s ideology, and second, his foundation provides funding to non-profits that offer charity-based solutions for people experiencing poverty. As we have noted in previous Foundation Watch posts, members of the Grand Rapids Power Structure are influencing economic policy at the state level that creates poverty conditions for thousands in West Michigan, but their foundations only provide charity-based solutions that do not address root causes of economic disparities.

The ideologically driven funding that the Jandernoa Foundation provides goes to the following entities:

  • Catholic Central                               $2,300,000
  • Junior Achievement                         $1,125,000
  • Mackinac Center for Public Policy $450,000
  • Calvin Theological Seminar            $400,000
  • GVSU                                                $300,000
  • Grand Rapids Student Advancement Foundation $109,500
  • Grand Action                                    $100,000
  • Start Garden Foundation                 $45,000
  • Great Lakes Education Foundation $25,000

All of the above entires either are designed to either; 1) influence educational outcomes – Catholic Central, Calvin Theological Seminary, GVSU and the Grand Rapids Students Advancement Foundation; 2) Pro-capitalist practices – Junior Achievement, Grand Action and Start Garden Foundation, or 3) public policy outcomes – Mackinac Center for Public Policy and the Great Lakes Education Foundation.

In the category of charity-based funding, here are some of the organizations that the Jandernoa Foundation supports:

  • Heart of West Michigan United Way $750,000
  • Special Olympics Inc.                          $175,000
  • Kids Food Basket                                 $100,000
  • Mel Trotter Ministries                          $75,000

To be clear, we are not saying that these organizations don’t serve specific needs, but we are also saying that these organizations do not work to end root causes of problems, rather they use charity-based solutions.

As one can see, the Jandernoa Foundation fully complements the more overt political and economic ways that Michael Jandernoa uses his money to influence public policy. In addition, by contributing to groups like Mel Trotter Ministries and Kids Food Basket, the Jandernoa Foundation can count on these same organizations to not challenge or resist the ways in which Jandernoa influences public policy, which ultimately leads to the creation of poverty and hunger.

The Rich get housing subsidies, everyone else gets capitalism in Grand Rapids

September 26, 2019

On Monday, MLive reported that the insurance brokerage company Acrisure, will receive $7 million in public money from the State of Michigan, for the company’s decision to move from Caledonia to downtown Grand Rapids. 

Acrisure will move their business to the new Studio Park complex, just behind the arena, but the move won’t happen until 2021.

The Michigan Economic Development Corporation has awarded the insurance brokerage the $7 million of public money, $1 million from a Michigan Business Development grant and the other $6 million from the Good Jobs for Michigan Program.

So here is what MLive didn’t report:

First, the board of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, which granted the $7 million, is made up of a mix of government bureaucrats and corporate representatives. 

Second, Acrisure, the insurance brokerage firm that received $7 million in public funds, last year got $2 billion from investors that now puts the corporation’s value at about $7 billion. One of the investors was Blackstone, which refers to itself as, one of the “world’s leading investment firms with over $457 billion in assets under management, including investment vehicles focused on private equity, real estate, public debt, and equity, non-investment grade credit, real assets and secondary funds, all on a global basis.”  In reality, Blackstone is one of the corporations globally that has bought up tens of thousands of single family home properties and turned them into rental units to make massive profits over the past decade. (see graphic below from Right to the City)

Third, Acrisure will move to Grand Rapids in 2021, being gifted $7 million in public funding, while thousands of families can’t afford rent in a city that considers itself to be a “welcoming city.”

Fourth, a company that is worth $7 billion gets $7 million in public funds because they will pay their employees an average salary of $74,464 a year.

The rich benefit from government subsidies, while the rest of us have to pull ourselves up by the bootstraps and are stuck with Capitalism. 

 

The Acton Institute continues to practice White Supremacy by attacking the 1619 Project

September 25, 2019

White Supremacy is an historically based, institutionally perpetuated system of exploitation and oppression of continents, nations, and peoples of color by white peoples and nations of the European continent, for the purpose of maintaining and defending a system of wealth, power, and privilege.

The above statement is a definition of White Supremacy, by the longtime activist and writer Elizabeth Martinez. The statement also reflects the very same kind of ideology that is perpetuated by the Grand Rapids-based Acton Institute.

The Acton Institute denies that structural racism exists and has perpetuated that lie since the organization was founded. They continue to deny the existence of White Supremacy and structural racism in the content on their website and who they invite give lectures or be part of the Acton University. The irony of their denial of White Supremacy is in fact, evidence that they perpetuate White Supremacy.

A recent example of how the Acton Institute perpetuates White Supremacy is with their recent interview with Ismael Hernandez, founder of the Freedom and Virtue Institute. Hernandez was invited to be part of the Acton podcast for the purpose of denouncing the 1619 Project

In the Acton interview with Hernandez, he says, “It is disheartening to see the New York Times initiate this project. It perpetuates this notion that there is still an ideology of White Supremacy and structural racism.”

Hernandez goes on to say that the 1619 Project, “is a form of paternalism” and “makes people passive, specifically black Americans.”

Lastly, the founder of the Freedom and Virtue Institute says, “The 1619 Project is really a disservice to the new generation of African Americans.”

In contrast to the White Supremacist views of Hernandez and the Acton Institute, it is worth listening to what the creator of the 1619 Project, Nikole Hannah-Jones, has to say. In an article from ColorLines, Hannah-Jones says the 1619 Project: 

“aims to reframe the country’s history, understanding 1619 as our true founding, and placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of Black Americans at the very center of the story we tell ourselves about who we are.”

Nikole Hannah-Jones was also on CBS earlier this year, in this short interview, where she talks about African Americans fulfilling the US experiment in democracy.

There is also an interesting article from the Nation Magazine, just last month, talking about how conservatives organizations, like the Acton Institute, are upset with the 1619 Project.  Again, Nikole Hannah-Jones is quoted by saying:

Our Declaration of Independence, approved on July 4, 1776, proclaims that “all men are created equal” and “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights.” But the white men who drafted those words did not believe them to be true for the hundreds of thousands of black people in their midst. “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” did not apply to fully one-fifth of the country. Yet despite being violently denied the freedom and justice promised to all, black Americans believed fervently in the American creed. Through centuries of black resistance and protest, we have helped the country live up to its founding ideals. And not only for ourselves—black rights struggles paved the way for every other rights struggle, including women’s and gay rights, immigrant and disability rights.

Unfortunately, the Nation article doesn’t really address why conservatives are so upset by the 1619 Project. In the case of the Acton Institute, their attacks agains the project are rooted in their free-market capitalist fanaticism. The fact that the brand of capitalism that has been practiced in the US is rooted in the theft of indigenous land and the enslavement of Africans, is something that the Acton Institute will not accept. The Acton Institute doesn’t deny that slavery existed, but they want to control the narrative about what the legacy of slavery is in the US and how the system of capitalism has continued to exploit and do other forms of harm to African Americans.

It is impossible to separate White Supremacy from Capitalism or Capitalism from White Supremacy. This is the assessment of numerous scholars and organizers, and it is the message that Ibram X. Kendi is communicating in his most recent book, How to Be an Anti-Racist. Kendi says, “I think in order to truly be antiracist, you also have to truly be anti-capitalist.”

People in Grand Rapids should know who practices and perpetuates White Supremacy. It’s not just the neo-nazi groups, it is a multi-million dollar organization with fancy offices and is run by a Catholic priest.